It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Lady Valerie Solti, a great friend to The Leeds International Piano Competition and a dear confidante to our Co-Founder Dame Fanny Waterman going back some 20 years. 

Dame Fanny Waterman and Lady Valerie Solti

Born in Leeds in 1937, Lady Solti was a wonderful Ambassador for the city and a great supporter of its cultural heritage. She was a loyal supporter of the Competition for so many years, and as a trail-blazing leader in the arts, Lady Solti’s connection to the The Leeds and shared values of nurturing young talent and supporting exceptional musicians throughout their career has been an invaluable relationship to cherish. The Leeds team, its supporters, audiences and Alumni will profoundly miss her presence at this year’s Competition. A life to celebrate, our thoughts are with all of her friends, family and colleagues at this time as we join you all in remembering the wonderful person she will always be.

The Leeds Artistic Director, Adam Gatehouse said:

“Lady Valerie Solti was an inspiration to many of us, one of that generation of extraordinary women of Leeds who have left an indelible mark both on the city and on the cultural fabric of this country. Her deep-rooted friendship with our Co-Founder Dame Fanny Waterman meant that we saw a lot of her up in Leeds, and she remained loyal both to Dame Fanny and the Competition right up to the end. She was such a vital presence not only at the Competition itself but at many events linked to it, always ready to talk to any and all of us and to stoutly sing the praises of her native city to the rooftops. Her unceasing work in nurturing the careers of young musicians has helped countless young artists. We need her like more than ever today, but she will always be irreplaceable.”


After studying at RADA, Lady Solti made her debut in the West End and went on to work for the BBC, where she met her late husband, the conductor Sir Georg Solti, marrying in 1967.

Over the years, Lady Solti’s passion for the arts saw her devote her time and support to several cultural organisations, including The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Sadler’s Wells Theatre TrustThe Liszt Academy, The Frankfurt Conducting Competition, the World Orchestra for Peace, which her husband founded and whose first concert at the United Nations he conducted. 

After her husband’s death in 1997, Lady Solti created the Solti Foundation, with a clear aim to continue the work that her husband had begun, helping young musicians and providing the necessary support whilst starting out in their careers. She then went on to co-found the Georg Solti Accademia in 2004 and played a vital role in supporting some of the world’s most brilliant musicians to develop their careers.

The Leeds Global Ambassador, Lang Lang, features in the long list of young people she has followed throughout their careers since their first encounter in 1998, when he performed at the first Solti Memorial Concert.


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